Canadian cow-calf cost of production

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Source: CanFax

2020 Results

Executive summary

The 2020 CDN COP Network is made up of 25 cow-calf and 3 dairy-beef production systems with 115 participants across Canada. The Network represents a wide variety of production systems varying in animal performance traits, economies of scale, labour productivity, feeding systems, and financials. The purpose of the network was to provide national coverage, and therefore, oversampling in the east was deliberate; to fill data gaps. Future data collection will focus on adding missing productions systems such as herds over 400 head, a wider variety of herd sizes in each province, and operations using primarily by-product feedstuffs.

The CDN COP Network provides detailed data for producers when evaluating similar production systems; this reflects the type of producers that participated and is different from the 2017 Farm Management Survey (FMS) results for several production parameters. For example, the average mature cow weights were higher in the CDN COP Network at 1,325 lb compared to FMS (2017) at 1,256 lb. The 205-day adjusted weaning weights were also higher at 566 lb in the CDN COP network compared to an average of 529 lb in the 2017 FMS. The CDN COP Network producers reported a higher weaning rate at 88.5% than the 2017 FMS Canadian average of 81% for cows and 72% for heifers.

For feedstuffs in the 2017 FMS, there was a lower representation of swaths or windrow crops at 19% of Canadian farms compared to the CDN COP Network with swaths at 28%. Cereal silage use was similar around 40% for both, but there was a lack of corn only silage use in the CDN COP Network. In the FMS (2017), 43% of Canadian farms use residuals or aftermath growth, this was under-represented in the network as only 8% of production systems used crop residue or aftermath grazing. Some points the CDN COP Network missed relative to the FMS (2017) were grazing details such as the breakdown of pasture types (native versus tame grasses).

Cost takeaways

The CDN COP Network average total costs were $1,123 per cow, with cash cost at 64% or
$704/cow, depreciation cost at 11% or $130/cow, and opportunity costs at 25% or $290/cow. Eighty-four percent (21 out of 25) of farms covered short-term (cash) costs, 72% (18 out of 25) of farms were covering medium-term (cash and depreciation) costs, and 32% (8 out of 25) of farms were covering long-term (cash, depreciation and opportunity costs).

Producers who could cover all long-term costs often had two or more enterprises generating revenue. They also only generated revenue from agricultural activities and had lower unpaid hours per cow spent. Rather than working off the farm to generate income, these operations focused on having multiple enterprises and building positive economies of scale. AB-5 represented one of these operations and had the lowest costs per cow and per pound weaned. Its success was due to using a variety of feedstuffs such as hay, swaths, and silage, and reducing equipment costs through contracting custom work. This operation illustrates that producer can still have low costs even if they have to purchase a portion (20%) of their feed.

Future of CDN COP Network

The CDN COP Network provides opportunities for producers to compare their operations to a similar production system. Although not all productions systems are represented yet, the 25 cow-calf baselines provided a starting point to compare cow-calf production nationally and internationally. Over 2022 and 2023, data collection will continue with a focus on filling the missing production systems.

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